Reactions to ICC prosecutor’s decision seeking warrants for Israeli, Hamas leaders

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The International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor’s decision to apply for arrest warrants of top Israeli and Hamas leaders for alleged war crimes over Gaza conflict prompted reactions from various countries.

Italy’s foreign minister said on Tuesday it was “unacceptable” and “absurd” to compare Israel and Hamas after the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor applied for arrest warrants for leaders on both sides.

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“It is completely unacceptable that Hamas and Israel are put on the same level -- the leaders of the terrorist group that started the war in Gaza by massacring innocent citizens and the leaders of the government elected by the people of Israel,” Antonio Tajani said in an interview with the Corriere della Sera newspaper.

The minister, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the G7 this year, described the parallel as “absurd,” adding: “In no way can one even imagine such an equivalence.

“Be careful not to legitimize anti-Israeli positions that can fuel anti-Semitic phenomena.”

Khan said in a statement that he was seeking warrants against Israeli leaders Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant for crimes including “wilful killing,” “extermination and/or murder,” and “starvation.”

He said Israel had committed “crimes against humanity” during the war, started by Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack, as part “of a widespread and systematic attack against the Palestinian civilian population.”

Khan also said the leaders of Hamas, including Qatar-based Ismail Haniyeh and Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar, “bear criminal responsibility” for actions committed during the October 7 attack.

China, for instance, said it hoped the ICC would uphold an “objective” position after the new developments.

Asked on Tuesday about Khan’s decision, Beijing said there was “an overwhelming consensus in the international community to immediately stop the war in Gaza and put an end to the humanitarian crisis of the Palestinian people.”

“It is hoped that the ICC will uphold its objective and impartial position and exercise its powers in accordance with the law,” foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said.

“The collective punishment of the Palestinian people should not be continued,” he added.

“China has always stood on the side of justice and international law on the Palestinian issue,” Wang said, adding Beijing supported “endeavors to promote a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the Palestinian issue.”

Israel slammed as a “historical disgrace” the demand targeting Netanyahu and Gallant, while Hamas said it “strongly condemns” the move.

China has historically been sympathetic to the Palestinian cause and supportive of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

President Xi Jinping has called for an “international peace conference” to resolve the fighting.

US President Joe Biden called the legal step “outrageous,” while Secretary of State Antony Blinken said it could jeopardize negotiations on a hostage deal and ceasefire.

Some US lawmakers called for the United States to impose sanctions on the court. In 2020, the United States imposed sanctions an ICC prosecutor.

For its part, the Kremlin said on Tuesday it was very curious that the US appeared ready to use sanctions against ICC.

“In general, the situation is more than curious in terms of the US attitude and willingness to use sanctions methods even against the ICC,” Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

In March last year, the ICC issued warrants for the arrest of President Vladimir Putin on war crimes charges.

Russia says the warrant against Putin is a meaningless attempt by the West to soil Russia’s reputation and denies war crimes in Ukraine. Ukraine says Russia committed war crimes. Russia says the West has ignored Ukraine’s crimes, a charge denied by Kyiv.

Biden said last year that the ICC decision to issue an arrest warrant for Putin was justified. The United States has shared details of alleged Russian war crimes in Ukraine with the ICC.

Russia is not a party to the Rome Statute, which established the ICC, so Moscow does not recognize the court’s jurisdiction.

“We are not parties to the relevant statute, therefore, we do not recognize the jurisdiction of the court,” Peskov said.

With agencies

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